George Orwell once wrote an essay on those works of literature that G K Chesterton termed 'good bad books'. These are the kind of books that have no literary pretensions, but remain readable when more serious productions have perished. Orwell specifically mentioned Kipling as an author who specialised in this field, but Conan Doyle is perhaps the master of the art. Anyway, all this can be brought up to the minute by transferring the theory to the modern version of a book: TV. What makes for 'good bad TV', and what is simply 'bad bad TV'? I enjoy books more than TV, but maybe I've already sounded pretentious enough, so now I'd really like to slag off some of the outrageous tosh that arrows its way out of the googlebox each day, hence this rather roundabout way of doing so.
So, let's get some rules out of the way first. We'll discount most of daytime TV, as this is always bad, and that's kind of a rule. There's no point in putting anything good, or even anything that's 'good bad' when your audience is made up of old people, students and teachers. Likewise, we'll discount anything on Five, for the reason that they almost take a perverse pleasure in producing crap.
So here's my list, compiling the top three of each:
Come dine with me: Okay, everyone likes this, but I discovered it first (maybe). This is perfect good-bad TV. It's a shallow as a hydrophobe's swimming pool, but everyone likes watching people arguing, and people getting their comeuppance, and there's several every episode. It's not all about Dave Lamb either; his twitter isn't very good, so maybe he's a real one-trick pony, and can only do witty sideswipes on culinary-based reality TV. So it's lucky for him that one came along.
Jeremy Kyle: Very tricky one this. It's so bad that it almost has to qualify for 'bad bad', but with shows entitled 'I pawned her engagement ring to buy lager', it has a shabby class all of it's own. The questions linger on: why do chavs say 'at the end of the day' with such regularity, why do none of them ever bother to dress up for their moment on national TV, how come they're all so fertile (especially given their poor diet) and why do they spend all their time arguing/having affairs *by text*?
Eggheads: This is a shoo-in. So many reasons to choose this as 'good bad': it's been on for 11 series, it's got uber-gilf Judith Keppel, Chris knows a lot about narrow-gauge railways, everyone in the world hates CJ, Daphne might croak at any moment, Pat looks like he might have eaten Barry, and Kevin once talked about eating 'gash' (apparently it's a type of fish - catch the clip on youtube). Masterful. And I was on it, so it's going in this category.
The X factor: This is all wrong. It's Pop Idol, but with the occasional fatty. You need a 'life story', but none of your life story ever make it into the music. Everyone is more interested by the process than the product. Steve Brookstein; though my brother did buy his album, which makes me chuckle.
Britain's got talent: Actually, this would be okay if it admitted to being a kind of end of the pier variety show, such as seemed to be de rigeur through the 70s. Instead, it's marketed as a kind of talent-fest, where Emperor Cowell thumbs up or down on a load of acts that the British public just have to lap up. Man eating snooker balls: no thanks. Those expectant faces, straining with desperation as the three talentless arbiters cast their verdict is simply pathetic to watch.
Casualty/Holby City/Waterloo Road etc: Lazy, formulaic and cheap. The public's insatiable appetite for watching the very slightly glammed-up everyday grind seems never to dim. People think 'neighbours' is crap; wait a minute, it is, but at least it's not pretending to be otherwise.